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Personal injury: What happens when a child is hurt?

Common childhood injuries may give rise to a personal injury claim.

Personal injury cases offer a victim of an accident a means to hold the person that caused the accident responsible for any resulting costs. These cases must follow a number of rules to move forward and the rules can vary depending on the specifics of the case. One thing that can impact these rules is the age of the victim. If the victim is a minor, different rules may apply.

What makes a case: common childhood injuries

A personal injury case for a minor can exist whenever a child is injured. The United States Department of Health and Human Services' National Institutes of Health NIH) reports that some of the most common causes for childhood injury include the following:

  • Car crashes. Motor vehicle accidents are a top cause for death and serious injuries in children ranging in ages from 5 to 19.
  • Drowning. The NIH also reports that drowning is the number one cause of death in children aged 1 to 4.
  • Falls. Children ages 0 to 19 can also suffer serious injuries from falls.

Children injured in these accidents may have legal recourse through a personal injury lawsuit.

What makes personal injury cases for minors unique: special rules

For some accidents, a case brought for a minor will have different rules than a similar case brought for an injured adult. The following will touch on the basics of a personal injury cases and a few unique considerations for cases involving children.

Personal injury cases often fall within the legal realm of negligence. Negligence is a legal theory that requires the injured party to establish four different elements to build a case. These elements are often referred to as duty, breach, causation and damage.

Essentially, the duty element refers to the responsibility of the person who caused the accident to exercise reasonable care. When it comes to car accidents, drivers generally have a duty to operate their vehicles responsibly. This is true whether the victim is an adult or child. Owners of swimming pools have a responsibility to keep the premises safe. This can include the presence of a fence to keep children from entering the area unsupervised. Cases that involve injuries due to a fall may question whether or not a defect to property caused the fall. Perhaps the stairs were unsafe or the lighting was not sufficient and one of these factors contributed to the accident.

The victim will also need to establish that this duty was breached. This essentially means that the accused failed to meet this duty. The next step involves establishing that the breach was the direct cause of the accident that resulted in the injury.

Victims that are building a case must do so within an accepted period of time. Each case generally has a statute of limitations. If the case falls outside of this limited period of time, the case cannot move forward. A longer time period may be present if the case involves a child. In Massachusetts, for example, the timeframe for bringing forward a personal injury case is generally three years. For cases that involve a child, the statute of limitations is generally three years after the child turns 18.

Cases involving children can also pose unique questions about the lifelong cost of the injury. As such, it is wise to seek legal counsel experienced in navigating child injury cases to help better ensure your interests are protected.

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